Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Zoolander No.2 (2016)

The original movie was clearly an overstretched, zany SNL skit...but with a lot of charm. It was a light-hearted, fluffy bit of light relief that was quite clever in its witty take-down of the glitzy celebrity/fashion world. At the centre of this ridiculously glossy ham fest was the dynamite duo of the blonde, hippy-esque, Hansel, and the brunette, Tom Cruise-esque, Derek Zoolander. Both vacant, narcissistic, world famous male models clashing head to head for the grand number one spot in the fashion universe. Oh as a side plot, the evil Mugatu was trying to use Zoolander in order to assassinate a world leader. So what has changed for this belated sequel? well not much frankly. The plot actually follows in the same steps as before with Zoolander once again quitting the modelling world and then once again being forced back into it, this time to gain custody of his son. At the same time, Hansel has done pretty much the same thing and is also dragged back into the modelling world after his orgy partners all turn up pregnant. Both are invited back to 'civilisation' by the mysterious Billy Zane who is apparently still looking for that big break back into Hollywood (just like the original). Oh and Mugatu is still up to his old tricks.

I think the first thing that hit me was how lame the jokes were, I mean really seriously lame and forced. Within the first ten minutes of the film Billy Zane hands Zoolander his Netflix, 'whoa! Jack Ryan...and Jack Reacher! Tonight's gonna be a total jack-off'. Are you groaning? you must be, surely you must be! Remember now, within the first ten flippin' minutes! Anyway as you can imagine things don't really get any better than that for the rest of the run time. There are barely any moments that did make me actually smile, the main one being the death sequence of Justin Bieber which I'm sure came at the top of most people's list. Another was a quick quip from a news report at the start of the movie, where the reporter speaks about the 3.7 million high school graduates of 2016 not knowing what a fax machine was, and couldn't name a caucasian President. 

The only other oddly amusing things that stood out (stood out in the sense that they were mocking modern society) was Benedict Cumberbatch playing some weird, eyebrow-less, mono-sexual/pan-sexual...model person, who claims not to be confined by binary constructs and has married himself (mono-marriage, is that actually a thing?? really wouldn't surprise me). It was strangely realistic considering today's current trends, as was both Zoolander and Hansel hesitantly agreeing to it all, not liking labels and supporting it all etc...And then you had the character of Don Atari who was pretty much the face of modern youth I guess. You're not suppose to understand half of what he says because he speaks in this modern youth tongue that's kinda like speaking in reverse, whilst taking the piss out of everything 'old'. Highly annoying, I know that's the idea but nonetheless, highly annoying.

The rest of the movie is completely stuffed with one big cameo after another as if you were watching some millionaires fanboy flick (I suppose you are). Zoolander has a son who of course turns out to be fat and ugly, whilst also resenting him for not being a good father. Mugatu once again has some evil, dastardly, Bond-esque scheme to...well I'm not sure really, kill all the leading people in the fashion industry I think it was. This involves kidnapping Zoolander's son under the guise of some ancient prophecy about the fountain of youth in order to lure all the bigwigs of fashion to one place...or whatever. And Hansel...doesn't really do anything except help out here and there or have breakdowns over his pregnant orgy family. Basically Hansel is replaced by Valentina Valencia played by Penelope Cruz in a stereotypically spoof Bond-esque role. Hell everything here is a stereotypical Bond spoof, its basically Austin Powers with loads of cameos.

Of course the movie isn't supposed to be remotely serious, its virtually a spoof, and in terms of hitting its targets...well I guess it does. The problem is none of this is funny anymore, apart from the odd lone gag its all terribly cliched, bloated, self-indulgent and cringeworthy. I mean come on! I've never seen so many cameos, but what for?? they don't add anything to the movie, they don't make it funnier or cooler, they just stick out as, at times, badly crowbarred in cameos. This movie really did feel like a sketch that had been padded out tremendously, the only remaining plus points that spring to mind are the inclusion of Ariana Grande in a latex catsuit and hood, and Milla Jovovich looking hot as hell in her Dominatrix attire. So for mature and adolescent male boner fuel...full marks! For witty social commentary...half marks, everything else..dross.


Monday, 23 May 2016

Invasion of the Saucer-Men (1957)

This movie has to have one of the most peculiar intros I've come across for a science fiction, horror. Actually the movie is officially labelled as a science fiction, horror, comedy truth be told, which again is rather unusual for the 50's as far as I'm aware. I don't think I've come across a science fiction movie from the 50's that is officially a blend of horror and comedy. Usually these films are laughable but that's not deliberate, they are often serious attempts at science fiction and horror...unless I'm mistaken (probably am). Anyway the opening credits for this film are basically done like a children's fairytale for a children's film. All the credits are written down in a big thick storybook with cheerful cartoonish illustrations, as a woman's hand turns the pages slowly one by one. At the same time, this is accompanied by a very merry little musical score that could easily be from any early Disney feature.

The plot is very straight forward, very cliche, very predictable and one of the earlier examples of an alien invasion flick. Put simply, a flying saucer lands in the woods near a small American town. One of the aliens manages to get himself run over by some teenagers in their car one night, the kids run off to find help. Around the same time a drunken man stumbles across the body and decides to go get his buddy to help him recover it, thinking of fame and fortune. Unable to convince his buddy, the man returns himself but is killed by the aliens, the creatures leave him and take their fellow dead alien, setting up the teens for murder. When the teenagers return with the police they find the dead man and are arrested under suspicion of killing him by possible drunk driving, or just careless driving. But! little does everyone know, the dead aliens hand has detached itself from its body and has gone off to run amok, for some reason. At the same time as all this is happening, the military have discovered the flying saucer after a hot tip and are trying to break into it. Can the teens convince anyone that there are aliens running around? Can they convince the police that they didn't hit the man? Will the military get into the saucer? How can the teens stop the aliens? Tune in next week, same alien-time, same alien-channel.

So in all honesty I wouldn't really say this was an out and out comedy, sure its dumb, but there aren't any laugh out loud moments or anything. To be frank it just feels like any other 50's sci-fi alien flick, I could see the actors were having a bit more fun than usual but generally it all felt semi-serious as usual for the era. The only actors that really seemed to be playing it goofy were the two youngsters playing the (so called) teens, they were definitely acting more dumb and naive than expected. The military were clearly in it for fun but again...not too dissimilar from other sci-fi flicks of the time, with bad acting dare I say. Basically what I'm saying is, if you saw this you wouldn't immediately say...oh this is clearly a horror comedy and the actors are clearly playing it for laughs. As for the movies main young star, Frank Gorshin, well he seemed to going at it for real baby! No slacking on his part, he was playing this thing seriously damn it! hungry for fame!!

The visual in the movie are actually very Ed Wood-esque if you ask me, not that they are that bad and full of mistakes, but just very basic, trying to be creepy, and just had a similar tone or vibe (in my opinion). There is nothing much to rave about though, clearly much (if not all) is shot on sets with possibly the occasional outside scene. The flying saucer is a hokey looking model on wires, and the aliens themselves are simply (by the looks of it) little people in suits. Of course the giant alien heads are full scale prosthetic heads with moving eyes which are effective and eerie looking with their pulsating veins. When seeing those bulging eyes glaring out from behind some bushes, and hearing their high pitched verbal squeaking, its quite unnerving for sure. Unfortunately when we see them in all their glory they obviously look like blokes in bad suits. I did find the needles for fingernails a strange thing though. The aliens have long retractable syringe like needles that come out of the tips of their fingers, they use these to attack obviously, which seems quite nasty if you ask me! These needles contain alcohol apparently as they never actually kill anyone by stabbing them, but merely inducing alcohol poisoning or getting them highly drunk. Definitely an odd ability to have for an alien race methinks.

The movie wasn't shy about gore though which was definitely a fun surprise. As already mentioned, when one alien gets run over, its hand detaches itself and shuffles off to cause mayhem. Firstly this was easily the best effect in the whole film, the little puppet hand was quite adorable really, much like Thing from The Addams Family...accept this hand had tendons and bone dragging along behind it and a fat eyeball. I quite liked the predictable disembodied hand tapping on the girls shoulder gag, corny but fun. Another rather surprising sequence was when a bull attacks a lone alien and manages to gauge the aliens eye out with its horn! Now that alone sounds pretty icky, but you even got to see it! with plenty of oozing goo as it happened! Now I could be mistaken but you didn't often see graphic things like that in these old 50's flicks, maybe hinted at but not seen.

I'm still not entirely sure just how deliberately tongue-in-cheek this movie was supposed to be, or whether it was just lost in translation during production and they decided to call it a horror comedy to cover their tracks. Its certainly a product of its time and totally silly in parts, such as the teens literally walking everywhere, no matter where they need to get to, they walk because everything in this town is obviously really close together. The fact that when the teens are accused of killing a man with their car, everyone is so polite, calm and almost blasé about it. Then they leave the teens in a room with a huge wide open window, hmmm. Then of course there's the million dollar question, why do the aliens explode when they come into contact with bright lights? The little aliens are the best thing in the movie by a country mile, coming across more like little evil goblins from hell rather than aliens, the fact we never really see much of them was also a clever move. Overall the movie works fine but its comedy aspect is weak, I think they should of gone all out for a proper scare flick from the start (unless they did) as the effects are easily verging more on that angle. Very much a mixed bag of hokey goodness.


Friday, 20 May 2016

Bone Tomahawk (2015)

OK lets be completely brutally honest here, I only watched this because of one thing and one thing only, the main star is Kurt Russell. There is literally no other reason that I watched this movie because I generally have little interest in horror flicks, unless they are part comedies or from the 50's black and white era, or starring an actor/s I genuinely enjoy watching (like Russell). Unfortunately I can report early on that my fears were cemented with this movie, other than Russell and the films title there is nothing of interest here at all, in fact its completely nonsensical crap of the highest order.

So the plot goes thusly. Set in the 1890's in the small western town of Bright Hope, USA, we are introduced to a small band of townsfolk, mainly from within the local saloon. Kurt Russell is the tough grisly Sheriff Hunt, then we have a dapper, smartly dressed womaniser named Brooder, a middle aged foreman sporting a broken leg named O'Dwyer, and local backup deputy old man Chicory. During the course of the night O'Dwyer's wife and deputy Nick are watching over a suspicious character that had rolled into town and was shot in the leg by Hunt whilst trying to avoid questioning. The next day all three are gone and a local boy has been murdered, the only bit of evidence left is an arrow. So after consulting the local indian and discovering the offenders are a tribe of crazy wild cannibalistic people, Hunt, O'Dwyer, Chicory and Brooder march off to rescue the kidnapped threesome.

Now the first thing I must stress here is the fact this tribe of nutters live far away from Bright Hope in a valley with caves, and yes, most of the runtime is spent watching our small band of heroes walk to this valley. I kid you not people, don't go expecting any blood and gore for quite some time because the heroes have to walk hundreds of miles to get to this valley. Now remember I said O'Dwyer has  a broken leg, well that doesn't stop him coming along for the trip. OK its understandable that he's upset because his wife has been snatched by blood thirsty savages, but surely the fact he has a broken leg is enough to make him think twice about going, I mean...what can do?? To make matters even worse, halfway into the trip they get done over by some bandits who nick off with their horses! So then they end up walking the rest of the way! and O'Dwyer has a broken leg!! As if anyone would have allowed this guy to come along, and they could have easily stopped him, sheesh!

Eventually after much travelling, we start to get down to the real nitty gritty of the story, the savages. Now I'm still kinda unsure who these people are suppose to be, are they a primitive Native American tribe? a lost undiscovered tribe dating back to earlier man? a cult? or just insane Native Americans? We don't really get any background info on these people other than where they live and that they eat people. Visually they kinda have a South American Inca vibe about them if you ask me, but I guess they're probably native Americans. As the situation deepens we find these people are made out to be somewhat supernatural, mainly down to their ghostly body paint, gruesome body modifications and their howling abilities. Yes that's right, these people can howl like...umm, monsters? Turns out they have some kind of whistle thing implanted in their throats (body modification) which allows them to howl by arcing their bodies upwards like wolves, and it can be really loud. They do this to communicate to each other over distances, but we never hear them speak to each other either. This alone offers up so many questions such as, what are these whistle things? (they look like bone), and where do they get them? (presumably from dead animals?). How do they implant them into their throats and how does that howling work? Is it possible that doing this operation makes them unable to speak?

This also leads me to the small sequence where O'Dwyer has managed to kill one of the tribe and he's sees the neck whistle thing. He then proceeds to cut it out because, of course you'd do that, I know I would (pfft!!!), obviously he's gonna need it later on down the line. So yeah after cutting up this dead guys neck for some icky bone whistle thing, he then proceeds to actually use the thing! He actually sticks it in his own mouth and starts to use it as a whistle, because of course you would, I know I'd do that (pfft!!!!!). But again...what actually is this thing?!

Of course being cannibals you just know there's gonna be some sick sacrificial sequence where some poor sod gets chopped up, and guess what...there is! Yes for all you gore porn fans out there, there is indeed a lovely moment where deputy Nick is literally torn apart after being scalped and having his own scalp shoved down his throat, for some reason. You see I don't get this notion, OK you're a cannibal and you eat people, fine. Now you have some people captured and you're gonna eat them, fine. Why the flippin' fuck would you wanna kill them in some disgusting manner? Firstly why are you acting so cruel to the victim, surely killing and eating them is bad enough, at least put them out of their misery nicely, softly. Secondly, why would you wanna tear their body apart and see everything? wouldn't that put you off? do people do that to animals for food? No, you just kill them, chop off the bits you need and cook it up, no need to methodically rip the victim to pieces letting everything fall out everywhere making a mess. It just seems to me like they had to make the killing as gruesome as possible to attract an audience for the film, cannibalism clearly equals mega gruesome death sequences for fun, apparently.

The entire movie is absolutely ridiculous from one scene to the next. The cannibals live in some cave high up in a cliff face, the only way into this cave is by having ropes thrown down for you to climb up, got that? So how on earth did O'Dwyer, with his broken leg, manage to get his ass into the cave just in time to save the day towards the end of the film? Oh...spoiler alert, but if you've seen the film you know its bloody obvious he'll end up doing this. Its just like the cannibals waiting to kill Nick right at the moment that Hunt and co have been captured, presumably for dramatic effect and to show their fate? They had Nick and O'Dwyer's wife for bloody ages and they only kill Nick at that moment? I guess they were full from eating the other guy (the suspicious guy). 

In the end I found this movie to be rather dull for the first part, rather unnecessarily gory at times, and finally just plain stupid. Russell looks the part and is enjoyable to watch as usual even though his acting has always been rather wooden if you ask me. It looks like he's either on the way to making 'The Hateful Eight' or just finished, and he's using his facial hair one last time before having a shave. Everyone else on board is fine but nothing special, its cool that we get to know each character quite well as they travel towards an uncertain future, but essentially the enemy they face is so daft and not particularly scary anyway. In the end they are fighting against a native tribe of cannibals in war paint (and not many either), nothing really ingenious to say the least, nothing particularly new. Just take the 'Aliens' setup and replace a futuristic space setting with the wild west, and then replace aliens with cannibals, job done. If you're into low budget, indie horror flicks then this is for you. Myself, I wasn't really taken by this, I kinda found myself wishing they were up against wild west werewolves or something.


Thursday, 19 May 2016

Appleseed Ex Machina (JP, 2007)

This is the sequel to the 2004 'Appleseed' movie which was itself a slightly rejigged version of the original 1988 animated version. One major difference with this CGI animated sequel is the producer being action maestro John Woo, where as the director is once again Shinji Aramaki, from the 2004 movie.

This story takes place two years after the incidents revolving around the bioroids in the city of Olympus. Deunan and Briareos rescue some officials from cyborg terrorists but in the process Briareos is injured. Whilst Briareos is out of action, Deunan is introduced to her new partner, Tereus, a bioroid that looks and sounds exactly like her old lover Briareos in his human form. Turns out that this is a new prototype bioroid soldier with no negative emotions to hinder its fighting ability. Briareos' DNA was chosen because of his  mental and physical strength. Naturally this leaves Deunan confused and frustrated with the whole situation. This is more of a subplot really, character building.

The real meat of the plot involves the increase of terrorist attacks that have been committed by cyborgs, made by a certain company, Poseidon. The terrorist attacks have been getting more confusing and frequent as both cyborgs and non-cybernetic humans have been attacking in a zombie-like fashion. It is also noted early on by Deunan that many people seem to be wearing electronic head wear called Connexus, a visor type gadget that projects holographic information in front of the users eyes. Anyway, basically a section of the company Poseidon (Halcon) was once a leading scientific laboratory until they started playing in the field of mind control. Poseidon shut them down after the apparent death of a young woman called Elizabeth Xander, the project head. Back in the present, world leaders introduce a global security network by merging all satellites around the Earth to create one large net, thus trying to eliminate potential terrorist attacks before they happen. Are these zombie-like attacks by cyborgs and Connexus wearing humans connected to Halcon and their mind control antics? Is the global satellite network somehow being abused by Halcon to control masses of people and cyborgs? And who exactly is controlling all this, and why?

So its pretty clear even to me that the franchise has taken a decidedly easy western focused route this time. The previous movie was an in depth look at human nature, ethics and all kinds of very real moral dilemmas. This sequel is clearly more of an outright sci-fi thriller with a rather bog standard plot about an evil company controlling peoples minds for nefarious purposes. In other words its almost like another yarn from the Resident Evil franchise, it could quite easily be this what with the zombie-esque notion and creepy mysterious company that offers no information about its past. To matters even worse (yes worse), they have brought in John Woo! the action genre whore. Oh boy can you instantly tell its Woo-influenced, sheesh! Literally the first action sequence we see at the start contains doves flying around in slow motion, and both Deunan and Braireos dual wielding guns, leaping about the place (in slow motion of course) with bullets raining down like confetti. I will fully admit it looks cool at times of course, Braireos launching himself into the air and taking out terrorists with two guns blazing, only to land perfectly and reload his weapons in an ultra cool manner, is indeed saucy stuff...but really?

That aside there isn't too much Woo-ness on show thank God, it seems they let him get it out of his system early on, and then told him to get on with the rest of the show sensibly. That being said, its all so very westernised here, all the characters are beautiful and muscular, including Braireos, despite being a cyborg (look at his robot biceps!). There are some cheesy fight training sequences in a dojo showing off lots of slow motion martial arts and yet more big muscles. ESWAT team members seem to be rather stereotypical characters that we've all encountered before, dare I say 'Aliens' influenced? Manuel Aeacus is a good example of such a character, unsure if he's from the original material or made for this movie alone. The way in which the mind control effects people visually looks like some kind of alien infection or slow growing mutation in the face. The hidden fortress of Halcon is pretty ridiculous in the fact that its a floating fortress...and made up entirely of cubes varying in size? (very Matrix-esque action). And lastly (spoiler alert!), the final showdown against the robotic, tentacle, zombie hybrid is quite literally an out and out Resident Evil type scenario, it virtually all is, its pretty obvious really.

Again the visuals appear to be a combination of cel shaded CG anime which are much smoother than the 2004 movie, but less realistic in my view. The CG anime in the 2004 movie looked more hand drawn with cel shaded CGI over the top, it looked a bit rough but it looked like anime/manga. This movie is much neater, smoother and slicker looking that's for sure, but at the same time it loses that anime/manga vibe if you ask me, it looks too smooth and glossy, almost too perfect really. In essence, for the most part, this movie kinda looked like an in-game sequence for a videogame, yeah I know that's a common saying for things like this but its very true here. The fighting sequences with Braireos looked like sequences from a Tekken game, especially in the dojo against Tereus. Most other scenes in the film could easily be any futuristic action shooter for the latest console, it all looked very meh to me, the original art source, slightly drained away. Don't get me wrong, had this been any other sci-fi animation I'd be saying the opposite as its not terrible looking, but when compared to the 2004 movie and the original source material, it just doesn't look right, to me at least.

I dunno, in the end I just felt this was too much of a cookie cutter western thriller, devoid of any real innovation that you would come to expect from a Japanese futuristic fantasy epic. Clearly its gone for a much wider, broader appeal which I'm sure many will prefer, but I'm also sure many fanboys will not. After the amazing plot we got in the 2004 movie I really expected a continuation in the same vein, another deep, methodical story with layers, sensible and, if I can say it...grown-up. Instead we get a silly zombie-esque,Matrix-like videogame thriller which just feels more like a spin-off than a full sequel. Yes it looks lush, admittedly they have bolstered the characters, mainly Braireos, and overall the imagination on show is impressive (if a little too common to other big sci-fi franchises). I'm not a fanboy who knows every little detail about this franchise, but even I was left wanting more here, even I could see how the fanbase might not like this particular path. But despite all that its still solid enough if you're into the genre as a whole.


Sunday, 15 May 2016

Appleseed (JP, 2004)

Based on the original manga series, this is a new movie with a re-interpretation of the original storyline, apparently, it is not an exact adaptation. That being said, it makes absolutely no difference to me because I'm completely new to this franchise having never seen anything related to it ever. Sure I've heard of this series, I've seen the imagery before, but that's all. So bare in mind this review is coming from a complete newbie, not to manga, but just to this particular material.

So the story goes, Deunan Knute is a young female soldier fighting in the last global war (WWIII). She is rescued from certain death by Hitomi and her former lover Briareos (who is now a cyborg), then whisked away to the utopian city of Olympus. It is explained that Deunan was sort after for her battle skills, naturally backed up by Briareos, they want her for the cities counter-terrorist organisation ESWAT. Upon arrival in Olympus Deunan discovers a world where humans coexist with bioroids, genetically-engineered clones of humans. The young female Hitomi is a bioroid, as is the President of Olympus, and everything is overseen by an all powerful A.I. called Gaia. Bioroids are essentially manufactured humans, but a highly advanced hybrid species, their purpose to keep human society stable, peaceful, free from aggression or violence. Conveniently originally created by Deunan's mother using her fathers DNA as a template. The one difference being, the bioroids are unable to reproduce and have shorter life spans, every aspect of emotion being controlled by Gaia. Neutered and sterile, but aware, happy and free from heartache. The only way for them to survive is undergoing a periodic life extension process. Alternatively, it is believed that the only way to bring down all bioroids sits on top of the city in the D-tank, which supposedly contains a virus.

Anyway, everything is not all smiles and blowjobs in the city of Olympus after a terrorist attack against the bioroid life extension facility leaves it in ruins. In the aftermath the elders wish to restore the bioroids reproductive functions asap due to the obvious pending crisis, and supposedly with the full consent of Gaia. However, in order to do this the elders need the Appleseed data, data which contains the information required to restore bioroid reproduction. But! the leader of the Olympian regular army (made up of humans), General Edward Uranus III, is against these actions, he wants to take down all bioroids because he believes they are a risk to mankind. He fears they will replace the human race over time, hence he is quietly a suspect of the attack. Deunan is tasked with finding the Appleseed data before it supposedly falls into the wrong hands (General Uranus) which could lead to the end of all bioroids. Alas for Deunan all is not what it seems, can the elders be trusted? is Uranus right? what exactly is contained within the D-tank? and what does the bioroid President know?

The plot had me thinking, thinking hard! It really did feel like I had landed with a thud, right in the middle of a well used, fully expanded universe. For starters the movie kicks off without any real explanation as to what is going, or what has happened before. Sure you get snippets of information as the plot proceeds but for a newbie such as myself I found myself asking many questions. At the start we see Deunan in full combat, amongst the ruins of civilisation, fighting...someone or something, I have no idea what. We later find out that the world had been at war and Deunan was one of the last remaining humans fighting. So how can the entire globe be at war and yet it hasn't affected the city of Olympus? When Deunan reaches Olympus she knows nothing, no clue about bioroids, ESWAT, modern technology etc...but how? Is the rest of the world supposed to be far behind in terms of technology? Has the war been going on for so long that over time the people of Olympus have simply advanced? Why doesn't Olympus help with the war? their soldiers appear to be very powerful. Deunan seems surprised by everything she sees but not by the fact her former lover has been turned into a large cyborg, shocked yes, but not by the tech involved (I guess its a standard thing?).

The futuristic city of Olympus was a predictable looking utopia in all fairness, clean, green, lots of hover cars, neon by night and a forest of sparkling skyscrapers. Even thought there are various angles contained within this complex story, some did stand out to me more than others. The fact that around 50% of the population are bioroid does actually make you lean towards General Uranus though, truth be told. I mean lets look at the evidence presented here, the entire city is controlled by one giant A.I. computer, which in turn controls the bioroids. The bioroids make up 50% of the cities population, biologically superior artificial humans created to keep normal humans in check so to speak. Many politicians and world leaders, including the Olympian Prime Minister, are bioroids, and you also have various human/cyborg hybrids. So upon reflection you can see how Uranus is opposed to bioroids and why he (and others) might feel threatened by their ever growing expanse. Yes the bioroids keep humans from acting stupid, preventing conflict, supposedly, but you can also see how that might be seen as a kind of repression, a stifling of human expression whatever it may be. Its almost as though humans don't have a real say in their own future, however positive or negative they might make it. Essentially you feel as if Uranus is on the right track but maybe misguided, but ultimately his stance is too extreme.

At the same time the elders (who appear to be part cyborg or enhanced themselves) frustrate you with their wilfulness to abandon the human race and push for an all out bioroid society. Is there a reason why all the elders are wise old oriental men? Surely that in itself is sexism within this futuristic society, that only men are in this special assembly of elders that clearly have much sway over the city. Anyway their double dealings and involvement within the cities numerous issues are slightly obvious from the start, but nevertheless still annoying with their reckless treatment of all mankind. One could almost compare it to modern day liberal extremists that protest and demonstrate for open door immigration policy within certain countries, the same reckless disregard for their own people, but lets not go down that route eh. I mean sure, you can let bioroids reproduce, but there is no need to slowly eradicate humans over generations by making them infertile, just because as a race we are volatile.

Being a Japanese manga the lead character is of course a slim framed, sexy female in a tight fitting military outfit. She's virtually an unstoppable ass-kicking machine that, at times, will break rank because its cool for a character to do that. Naturally she is linked to all the bioroids biologically because her mother created them using her fathers DNA, and naturally her mother was mysteriously killed for her work (kinda predictable, cliched stuff that). Her close partner Briareos is the huge muscular cyborg hybrid that is the epitome of a Japanese mech/bio suit warrior type, indeed it was this characters look that got me intrigued in the first place. This character is undeniable cool looking, his design being fluid, sturdy and sleek despite having those long wing-like rabbit ears and the large bug-like eye arrangement on his faceplate. Briareos is essentially the muscle in this duo, the brawn, the intimidating factor visually at least, you've always gotta have some beef with big guns it seems. Naturally both of these characters look fecking awesome when sporting a huge weapon of some kind, as do all the other ESWAT team members and other police units in their mech suits cradling massive sniper cannons (or whatever).

Everything being CGI of course enhances the silky futuristic atmosphere tenfold. This isn't a rusty, old, used future, this is a sterile, shiny, clean, polished, glossy future where people are clean cut and don't behave badly. So in that sense the blemish free CGI approach does fit the bill, but its not entirely pleasing in my opinion. The inclusion of motion capture, cel shading and traditional anime along with the CGI does make for a very realistic look for sure, It takes the sting off the CGI meaning there is less of a plastic look and a bit more of a hand drawn look around the edges. Images of men in mech suits taking aim with their ultra cool guns does look very very sweet indeed, Olympus looks nice and shiny, much neon glows in the night, vistas are sharp...but still it does have that CGI vibe about it, I still find myself preferring well crafted hand drawn animation.

The philosophical effect is grand in scale in my opinion. Themes of human nature, what it is to be human, the human soul, the effects of technology on humans, racism, terrorism etc...its a veritable Arthur C. Clarke/Asimov hotpot. Considering the franchise has been around since 1985 its impressive that the stories main themes are still relevant today, maybe even more so now actually. Not only that but the amount of behind the scenes politics, differing factions, factions within factions, betrayal, revelations, democratic viewpoints, conservative viewpoints quite frankly mind blowing! I haven't even touched on the ethical issues when it comes down to the bioroids. Originally, genetically engineered, man-made, emotionless clones that require life extension check-ups, but once appleseed is activated and the bioroids are able to reproduce, does that make them fully human? Once they can reproduce then surely emotions will soon follow, so then you have to ask yourself, were the elders right after all? Will (or could) the bioroids be the perfect race?


Wednesday, 11 May 2016

It Conquered the World (1956)

Lots of movies revolved around an alien or creature simply referred to as 'it' back in old days. This time instead of being awoken from a deep slumber in some deep Earth crevice somewhere, this time its an alien, from Venus, that looks like an upside down ice cream cone, and it wants to take over the Earth using mind control. Yeah I got nothing here.

But yes that is literally the plot here, an alien from Venus contacts a lonely human scientist on the phone or whatever, and convinces him to assist him in taking over the Earth. The end goal...complete human mind control, using something, for some reason that I don't know, but by God its dastardly! Oh no wait! the alien is claiming to want to bring peace to the human race by eliminating all our emotions through mind control, somehow. How this would help us? I have no clue, why the human scientist agrees to help? I have no clue, why does this even bother the alien? I dunno, guess it needs a hobby, just accept the situation.

The lone scientist in question just happens to be Lee Van Cleef so simply down to that, I can give the movie some slack and understand why the alien chose him. Anderson (Cleef) agrees to help the alien presumably because he thinks he's doing the right thing, bringing peace to Earth. Naturally the tall, good looking all American protagonist played by Peter Graves doesn't agree, and fights back with all his American might. Not really sure how this alien intends to control the entire planets population though. You see it uses these flying alien bat things to prey on victims, bite them or something, and then they are under the aliens control. But we discover the alien clearly has a money problem because he only has like seven or eight of these bat things, and they only bite one specified person, like a homing bat thing. So how the fuck is he gonna control millions of people without millions of bat things?? I don't believe the controlled humans do anything to non controlled humans (in a zombie-esque sense), so I have no clue how this plan would work. Of course landing in some small American town in the middle of nowhere probably doesn't help either, these aliens love small American towns in the middle of nowhere.

The alien itself is one of the most horrendously bad alien suits you will come across in 50's sci-fi, and that's saying something. I said before it looks like an upside down ice cream cone, well it does, its just an inverted triangle with big pointy teeth, two claw arms and two evil eyes. The things shuffles around in a hilarious manner that only goes to show the suit was not actually designed for moving. All this creature can do is move its claw arms up and down...slowly, its mouth doesn't open, its fixed in one evil grin, its eyes don't move and it can only move forwards and backwards unconvincingly. Yes I know these old movies didn't exactly have big budgets and yes I know the terrible effects are half the fun with these flicks, but seriously...this is just awful! What makes it even more hilariously stupid is the young Lee Van Cleef looking and acting deadly seriously with his pointed cheek bones and slit-like eyes, whilst this big foam triangle with teeth wobbles around trying to stand upright. It kinda makes you wonder what the effects team behind this were thinking really. How could an alien species like this possibly progress to the technological level they are at, with such a useless physical makeup. Sure they might be clever but if you don't have the body to build stuff then you're screwed. Presumably the spaceship it travels in fits large triangular creatures.

The main problem here besides the terrible looking alien is the basic plot setup, its just pants. For a start as I already pointed out, the alien controls humans by sending out these bat things to bite them, like a flippin' vampire. But the alien only has eight of these things so what the fuck! Van Cleef's character is seemingly perfectly fine with betraying the entire human race and allowing everyone to become emotionless zombies, but would this eventually include him? Surely it must because why would he want to live in a world with no emotions? Also I'm not too sure why Van Cleef's character is so embittered against his fellow man, at least to such a high degree, I mean Jesus Christ he's only a local scientist, it can't be that bad! At the same time his wife is totally against this plan, and the alien, yet she isn't on the list for brain controlling. The alien allows her to mill around causing issues with her constant moaning and defiant behaviour, eventually this leading to her trying to kill the alien, but why would the creature allow this to carry on? But essentially the entire thing just boils down to my original point, how the fuck can this stupid alien take over the Earth with just eight mind controlling bat things??? Even if it had a million that still wouldn't cover it.

It feels odd being genuinely negative about this movie because its a cheap, tacky 50's science fiction flick...because that's exactly what you would expect, that's half the fun of these things. Nevertheless I can't just bump this up because its a trashy black and white sci-fi and I'm a fanboy of trashy black and white sci-fi flicks. Yes it stars Lee Van Cleef which is awesome, yes it does have yet another cameo/bit role for the legendary Dick Miller (hurrah!), and yes the whole premise is deliciously hokey and outrageously daft, but at the same time its also crap. Yes that's right crap, crap of the highest order I'm afraid, I couldn't get into it because it was simply too stupid with its plot, and the alien was just beyond dire. Had the movie at least had some interesting locations or action or effects etc...then maybe, but its all very drab and boring with the alien hiding in a cave. Oh and its of course impervious to bullets...but not a blowtorch it seems, go figure.


Friday, 6 May 2016

Monster from Green Hell (1957)

So there's a monster, and it lives in green hell, translation, a giant bug that lives in the jungle. I'm guessing that's why its called green hell because the jungle primary colour would be green, I guess. Problem is there are actually a few of these giant bugs, not just one, so technically it should be monsters, not that it matters much, but how many of these old 50's sci-fi movies have posters that are completely inaccurate.

All American scientists Dr Quent Brady and Dan Morgan are researching a special program that sends animals and insects into space to test their survival chances (sounds rather dubious). Naturally one of these experiments (containing wasps) goes wrong after take-off and comes down off the west coast of Africa. A few months down the line and reports come in from that same location of monsters causing havoc, aye aye...sounds a bit iffy. The America duo surmise that the wasps had been exposed to cosmic radiation in the rocket before it came down, eh? but how?? So off they go to Africa to find these monsters. The plan being to meet up with another scientist in the danger zone, so first they have to trek there, 400 miles, like seriously? they couldn't take a small plane? Once at their destination the team must track down the giant wasps and make sure they won't breed any further, because that would endanger the world! Dun-Dun-Duuuun!!

There's a big problem with this movie, and that's the use of other footage from other movies, mainly a film called 'Stanley and Livingstone'. Once the Americans reach Africa, what you see is actually very impressive landscape wise. Almost all of the sequences show lovely wide shots of the African wilderness, nature roaming free, and scale shots showing the team set against vast open ranges. But I'm not actually sure how much of these shots were actually shot for this movie, the main issue being they look too damn good for such a shitty low budget horror like this. The other problem being I haven't seen this other old movie so I cannot make any real decision on the matter. Sure its obvious that some shots are stock footage, that's clear as day, but other shots showing the team (or a team of people) walking across the savannah, I don't know. They could have been shot for this film, its possible, some shots/sequences do sync up together reasonably well, but the black and white does a good job of hiding any fractures, unless its really obvious like large tonal/shade shifts. Indeed, some of the shots with natives clearly involved hundreds of extras, possibly more! I was actually really taken aback at the scale, surely these must have been snippets from the other film.

The giant wasps themselves are a hokey affair as you might expect. Large scale movable models or puppets were constructed that merely loomed into shot, wiggled the odd antenna, then lurched back out of shot again. Naturally there was also the obligatory large scale claw for close-ups of attacks and kills, the usual stuff really. There was a small sequence involving some stop motion effects though. A snake attacks one of the wasps and coils itself around the beast, all this was clearly done with stop motion effects and, I think, looks much better really, in a kooky way. Other than that very small sequence everything else was using the large puppet heads or simply utilising very crude rear projection. The finale is the biggest cop out and example of piss poor effects and writing. After everything (including grenades!!) the team don't actually kill the wasps, the erupting volcano does, so in essence they needn't have even bothered coming on the massive journey they did because the bugs would have been wiped out naturally anyway, sheesh! But the worse aspect was the effects, tonnes of erupting volcano stock footage with rear projection images of the wasps in the background. Its implied that the wasps are killed by the lava, not that you would guess that because the effects are so bad and it just looks like documentary footage of an erupting volcano.

'nature has a way of correcting its own mistakes'
Whoa! hold on there chief, nature didn't do anything, nature didn't make any mistakes, I do believe it was you humans that caused all this. Remember? you sent a space rocket into space full of wasps, it all went wrong and crashed in Africa, next thing we know there are giant wasps stinging people to death. Ring any bells Mr. American scientist? Oy!

But lets get back to the rest of the movie for a minute. Before we even get anywhere near the giant wasps we have to sit through the huge jungle trek the team undergoes to get to the affected area. I kid you not this takes up most of the bloody movie! A 400 hundred mile trek and they really do make you feel it, realistic I suppose. The gang march across various terrain dodging dangerous wildlife, the weather, dehydration, the shits (probably) and revolting natives. Yep they come under attack from the locals (well a gazillion of them, I kid you not) and manage to escape by setting the bush alight! because hurrah! out of control bush fires are good! So they do escape of course, but not before they lose some of their local guides/helpers in the process to arrows, the ones that survive eventually run off.

Yeah so there's not much to say about this really, the only plus points are the sequences in Africa but I think most of them are from another flippin' movie! The cast are fine, usual thing, usual line up. Stereotypical gruff, good lookin' American lead, nerdy, elderly looking scientist, local native cannon fodder and the obligatory lone female. The giant wasps are very average, nothing special and you don't see them that much, really needed much more wasp action frankly. Its cookie cutter stuff from the 50's of course, nothing new about that, but its bottom of the scale stuff, it suffers from lack of excitement and giant wasps. The movie is about giant wasps so show us giant wasps doing stuff dagnabbit!


Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Robot Monster (1953)

Not exactly an imaginative title for a movie is it, kinda sounds like they went with the first thing that sprung to mind. To top that it doesn't even mean anything really, the title monster in the movie isn't a robot as far as I'm aware, but who knows. This movie was made for a paltry sum by a young director of 25 years of age (Phil Tucker), virtually everything was shot in one location, and the actual alien suit was in fact an actual gorilla suit that the directors friend (George Barrows) had made for himself.

The plot to this science fiction extravaganza is quite literally surreal frankly. Apparently the human race has been wiped out completely by this alien race, an alien race that have gorilla -esque bodies and wear a humanoid space helmet on their heads, I think. I'm not sure because its quite possible that the space helmet is their actual heads, either that or they do in fact have a head of some kinds beneath the helmet, a gorilla-esque head?? If they do have a head beneath the helmet, why aren't they wearing a full space suit? seeing as they clearly need the helmet to survive. Surely the rest of their body needs protection too? Or its entirely possible I'm just looking into this way too much. It seems their reason for wiping out mankind is because they were afraid that the human race was becoming too powerful, the usual reason. Although its completely hypocritical because their powers seem to be pretty bloody powerful too and they aren't afraid to wipe out entire civilisations it seems.

Anyway, no clue where these aliens come from, outer space, don't question it. They have some kind of super powerful death ray at their dispersal called a Calcinator death ray which, somehow, is able to kill any human, anywhere, at any point, at any time, with the flick of the wrist. That's right, no buttons, no switches, no nothing it seems, the alien leader (The Great Guidance) merely controls this death ray by the power of his hand, which kinda leads you to question what powers these creatures actually have, There also only seems to be two of these aliens, the leader who barks out orders, and the alien on the ground doing all the killing named Ro-Man Extension XJ-2 (sounds like a Japanese Manga hero), although I'm too sure if he has control of the death ray or its just the leader. Not that Ro-Man needs the death ray because he can kill humans quite easily on his own, including kids! (but the death ray is much quicker and easier). His only issue is he's very heavy and slow...and unable to turn his head apparently (oy!). Oh, the death ray is also completely able to destroy spaceships leaving the Earth or flying through space too, its pretty darn powerful that old death ray, no distance too great, no target to big or small, its takes it out in a literal flash (every time its deployed the screen flashes in an epileptic fit inducing way).

Yep so what you essentially have here is almost an early vision of 'The Terminator', accept you swap out roaming killer robots and stick in gorillas with space helmets on. The gorilla suit in question doesn't actually look as bad as you might think. Sure it doesn't really look like a realistic gorilla suit, but more like a large, lumbering, fat, furry Wookie, Bigfoot or Yeti. Due to its size it does have a nice threatening look to it, the helmet sat upon the hefty body also gives off a reasonably eerie vibe. Why? because its faceless, all you see is the space helmet and its porthole-esque opening, but beneath that is nothing, its just a blank space which at times seems to have a ghostly face glowing through. Whether or not that ghostly face was a deliberate effect or just the actors face showing through I don't know, I suspect it was just the actors face. Nevertheless that quirk was clearly picked up on because on the movies posters it clearly shows a humanoid skull as the aliens face beneath the helmet, bit disappointing you don't actually see a skull though.

There aren't any other effects in the entire movie and that's the truth. What you do see is actually snippets from other movies that have been crowbarred into this one. For example, when the leader gets annoyed with Ro-Man because he has fallen in love with the human girl (of course), and won't kill her, he kills Ro-Man and unleashes dinosaurs and an earthquake to kill the remaining humans. Yes that's right, dinosaurs, no fecking clue how or where these prehistoric creatures come from, or how the aliens are able to summon them from where ever, just accept the situation. Anyway all these dinosaurs and the earthquake are in fact special effects from other movies such as 'One Million B.C.' and 'Lost Continent'.

There is so much absurdity in this movie its insane, halfway through the movie two of the main leads fall in love and get married! Nothing wrong with that but when its in the middle of an apocalyptic extermination scenario, you'd think having a wedding ceremony would be the last thing on your mind. There's also lots of spiel about the last humans being protected by some kind of electrical field that stops Ro-Man from finding them, plus the stereotypical professor character who's able to create a serum that stops the death ray from killing them (how would a serum stop you from being killed by a death ray? that's like having a serum that stops bullets or lasers from killing you), and what the hell was the bubble machine for? Ro-Man, for some reason, seems to hide out in a cave (no idea why he would do this), and he has all this equipment set up at the mouth of the cave (for anyone to see and attack), most of which simply looks like standard radio gear...and a bubble machine?

Its very clear this had a small small budget, and its also clear the young director loved the genre but had no real clue about creating a solid original story. There are only three things that make this movie worth while, firstly the alien Ro-Man who is actually quite intimidating and his name is cool. Secondly the end twist, which is actually on one hand a complete cop out, but at the same time, a further neat and fresh little turn of events which was predictable but sweet. Thirdly, the movie does actually have a decent atmosphere about it, there is a nice sense of pending doom and eventual submission, that the humans simply can't win. Everything else is a total muddle truth be told, a blur of ideas that aren't fully expanded upon from lack of money and writing. That's not to say this film is bad, its certainly in the 'so bad its good' camp for sure.